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Ten reasons to be optimistic in Georgia

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POSTED: January 4, 2010 10:21 a.m.
Here is a list of 10 reasons to be optimistic for 2010.
Reason no. 1: Well, it’s not last year. In beginning 2009, we had no idea how bad things were going to get and did not realize we were entering the deep recession we find ourselves in right now. Fortunately Georgia is entering not the first of the recession nor the middle of the recession, but undoubtedly we are entering the end of the recession. Street preachers holding “The End is Near” signs now probably mean the end of the recession is near.
No. 2: The recovery of the stock market has been amazing and if you left everything alone in your 401 (k) or 457 plan, you may be near where you were before the Federal Reserve started “saving us.” In fact, the market, at 10,500 as of this writing, is doing so well that the real experts are predicting a fall. Thinking back a year, we were hopeful that maybe 7500 was the bottom.
No. 3: State Retirement Plans, TRS and ERS mainly, have done an about-face due to reason No. 2. In fact between the two, they have regained more than $6 billion of the value of their assets just this past year. Not a complete recovery since they also lost the expected earnings during the past two years, but all the same outstanding news. The first thing the bond underwriters mentioned in an evaluation of Georgia’s bond offering was the soundness of our retirement systems. Not true around the country, but a tribute to the leadership here over the years.
No. 4: Probably only “by the hair of our chinny chin chin” did Georgia retain its AAA bond rating this year, resulting in some of the lowest interest rates in history. In fact, the savings, some $47 million, helped to start rebuilding our depleted “rainy day reserve.” The AAA rating is a vote of confidence in the way Georgia has faced this freefall in revenues and shows faith that the state will move to refill its reserve before any new spending takes place.
No. 5: Georgia has actually had a rather good development year and there are a number of positives around, even in light of closures and job losses. Kia beginning production, a 6,000-job impact, the NCR relocation and factory project, the Mitsubishi announcement in Savannah, Efacec production beginning in Effingham, the military build-up and related construction at Fort Benning, just to name a few, are positive developments. And there are projects being discussed and presented all around the state.
No. 6: Motion pictures have had a record year, which is astounding considering the competition for entertainment today from TV, cable and other mediums. And this is good for Georgia. Our increased tax credits passed two years ago have paid dividends in the growth of the entertainment industry locating and filming in Georgia. Total investment in all filming doubled to $591 million in 2009. Economic impact is conservatively pegged at twice that amount.
NO. 7: Agriculture has had a record year in production coupled with pretty good commodity prices. Cotton production set a record this year some 24 pounds more than the previous 2005 record. And due to a fall of 5 percent in world production, prices have hovered in the 70 cents per pound range. Peanut production set a record by some 50 pounds to the acre over the previous record.
No. 8: Georgia’s ports, even in a year that saw container traffic fall, were still less affected than many ports and refrigerated exports were actually up. Vessel calls increased for the year as well as the Savannah Port’s share of East Coast shipping. Increasing vessel calls in lean times point to the confidence in the profitability of doing business with Georgia’s ports. As the world economy recovers and U.S. consumption starts to rise, Georgia ports will be the first to feel the recovery. And with the widening of the Panama Canal in just four years, the outlook for increased trade and traffic through the Port of Savannah is expected to dramatically increase.
No. 9: The drought is over. Who remembers those who said that Lake Lanier would never refill again? Think how much harder all that needs to happen in water agreements and other actions would be if the state was still in a drought. If global warming was blamed for the drought, does that mean it is now to blame for the wettest on record?
No. 10: It takes a little work to find encouraging economic indicators out there. Here’s an abbreviated, partial list of economic reasons to be optimistic about 2010, ranging from employers telling pollsters they plan to add staff in the first quarter to drops in delinquent mortgage rates, to projections that Georgia’s population will continue to grow.

Hill, R-Reidsville, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
 

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